Alcohol intake linked to PMS symptoms

Monday, 30 April, 2018

Alcohol intake linked to PMS symptoms

It may come as no surprise that women with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) often turn to alcohol to alleviate the symptoms. However, researchers now believe that drinking alcohol might be contributing to their PMS symptoms.

Based on the global prevalence of alcohol drinking and their analysis of pooled data from multiple studies, Spanish researchers estimate that around one in 10 cases (11%) of PMS might be linked to alcohol intake.

PMS symptoms may include any or all of mood swings, tender breasts, food cravings, fatigue, irritability and depression. Its severity varies from woman to woman. The cost of PMS in the US has been estimated at US$ 5000 per case every year, with women likely to experience 3000 days of disabling symptoms during their reproductive lives.

The researchers suggest that there are plausible biological explanations for the association found; that alcohol might boost PMS risk by altering levels of the sex steroid hormones and gonadotropin during the menstrual cycle, and/or it might interfere with the production of key ‘mood’ chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin.

Digging into the data

Several previous studies have shown that PMS tends to be more severe among women who drink alcohol, but it was not clear whether this was due to the alcohol itself or whether women were reaching for the bottle to cope with their symptoms.

To learn more, the researchers conducted an analysis of pooled data from 19 studies with 47,000 participants from eight countries.

They produced estimates showing that alcohol intake was associated with a “moderate” heightened risk of PMS of 45%, rising to 79% for heavy drinkers.

While the design of the included studies precluded the ability to establish cause, the researchers say that the relatively large number, and the consistency of the results, suggest that alcohol may be associated with an increase in the risk of PMS.

“These findings are important given that the worldwide prevalence of alcohol drinking among women is not negligible,” they wrote.

Globally, the proportion of women who drink alcohol is thought to be around 30%, with around 6% of those heavy drinkers. But in Europe and America the equivalent figures are higher, at almost 60% and over 12.5%, respectively.

“Based on the figures above and on our results, we estimate that 11% of the PMS cases may be associated to alcohol intake worldwide and 21% in Europe,” wrote the researchers. “Furthermore, heavy drinking may be associated with 4% of the PMS cases in the world and over 9% in Europe.”

They speculate that if the association is causal in nature, “eliminating heavy drinking in women would then prevent one in every 12 cases in Europe”.

Further research is most definitely needed, they concluded. The study has been published in the online journal BMJ Open.

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